‘Eve of a Hundred Midnights’: Best-Selling Author to Visit Campus for Lecture

Monday, February 27, 2017

by Molly Grab '17

SJU's Bernadette B. and James J. Nealis '69  Program in Asian Studies will host best-selling biographer and journalist Bill Lascher on  Wednesday, March 1, 4-5 p.m. in the North Lounge in Campion Student Center. Lascher is the author of Eve of a Hundred Midnights (HarperCollins, 2016), the story of Melville and Annalee Jacoby, two real-life American WWII correspondents in China who fell in love, married and made an historic escape from Manila in 1941.

During his lecture, Lascher will discuss the book as well as how he was able to use archival sources to tell the Jacobys’ story. He will also help attendees understand the important role that war correspondents played in China and the Philippines during WWII. The event is open to the public.

“The world changed dramatically during World War II, and China was no different,” says James Carter, Ph.D., professor and chair of history and director of Asian studies, an expert in Chinese nationalism. “After the end of the war, China fell into civil war and emerged as a Communist state. These changes fundamentally transformed the world.”

Lascher was inspired to learn more about the historical couple when he discovered that Melville Jacoby was actually his cousin. In fact, Lascher had been given Melville’s typewriter by his grandmother. It was then he began to trace the story of the Jacobys. Lascher recreates the experiences of the couple, who spent the early days of their marriage covering the start of the Second World War in China, writing accounts from the capital city of Chongqing, Manila and Bataan for Time along the way.

Annalee’s story is one that Lascher will also discuss at the event. Though she is often referred to only in connection with her husband, Annalee was, in many ways, as accomplished as Melville in her writing career and showed just as much bravery during their daring escape. The book, which is currently being translated into Mandarin for Chinese publication, explores her journey, as well.

Eve of a Hundred Midnights has been acclaimed by Kirkus Reviews, The New York Post and the Asian Review of Books, and it has also quickly become a best-seller in the biography genre. Readers and reviewers alike are commenting on Lascher’s rare achievement of crafting a non-fiction novel that’s also a page-turner.

“The great events of history — World War II, the Chinese Civil War, the rise of Japanese Imperialism — can only be meaningful when understood through the lives of individuals,” Carter says. “And the lives of individuals only make sense when seen in the context of the great events of their time. This book takes the epic sweep of World War II and the transformation of world politics and puts it into a personal story.”

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